On the second day after I landed in New Delhi, I went to visit the Sanskriti Museum of Textiles near the Qutub Minar 15th century historic site on the south side of town.
It’s a small, private collection hidden away behind gates on the expansive grounds of an estate that is now an educational center. I was able to combine this stop with one at nearby Nature Bazaar for textile shopping. You could visit these three destinations in a day!
The Sanskriti Museum of Textiles is important because it explains the process to make ajrakh block printing that ultimately colors the cloth in layers of complexity and depth. Usually, it is blue and red, combining indigo and madder root.
It’s Muslim origins come from the Sindh (Pakistan) and Gujarat, Kutch, India. These areas, now politically distinct, share ancient common artistic, cultural, historical and religious roots.
Peopled by nomadic herders who traveled on camels in search of grazing lands, the block printed cloth was traditionally used for men’s turbans and wrap-around pants. These block prints are among the most treasured in the world.
The Sanskriti Museum tells the block printing story by showing the stages on cloth panels. You first start by washing the cotton, then you use a mud past to apply the first pattern with a hand carved wood block. A few steps of the multi-step process are below.
After each step, the cloth is washed and then laid out on the ground to dry.
India is the world’s largest producer of cotton. Some of it, like the finest organic muslin, has the hand of silk, is diaphanous and soft, drapes beautifully.
A new town, Ajrakhpur, devoted only to block printing, was recently established by Abduljabbar Mohamed Khatri. The dominant figure living and working here is his son Sufiyan, who goes regularly to the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe. Of course, there are other unknown talents to discover here.
I became so overwhelmed by the choice of textiles that I couldn’t focus and only bought one small indigo block printed wool/silk scarf, that is now in the possession of my sister. Fortunately, I managed to concentrate enough to take a few photos!
When I was in Ahmedabad, my first priority was to get to the famous block printing shop of the Gamthiwala family, just across the Nehru Bridge in the new city a short distance from House of MG. They have a smaller shop in the old city, much more romantic, where the selection isn’t as extensive.
In the photo above, the block print on the left (red and blue) is from Khavda, Kutch and is an original Sindh design from Pakistan. From the top right, indigo print from Gamthiwala Fab; indigo and turmeric dyed block print from Rajisthan; next indigo block print, Gamthiwala Fab; next, block print indigo and madder scarf from Fab India made in Gujarat; next, indigo and madder block print from Rajasthan; next from Gamthiwala, an indigo, madder and iron (ferrous oxide) block print; block print dress bought at Fab India.
And, just so you know that I was having fun, this is a betel leaf cigarette. Do you believe I didn’t inhale? Caught in the act at the Little Rann of Kutch, Dasada, Gujarat. Thanks, Jumed.
Tamil Nadu is the India state source for indigo. It is in the south, tropical and perfect for production. It is also the place where terracotta figures were discovered. When I saw them, they reminded me of the soldiers unearthed in Xian, China, that I saw in the early 1990’s, though on a much smaller scale.
Tomorrow, I leave Southern California for Oaxaca, where life resumes not as usual either! I am almost recovered from jet lag. Stay tuned for the next installment.
From Oaxaca, Mexico: Feliz Fiestas y Navidad, Merry Holidays, Chag Sameach
Wishing you all the blessings of peace, contentment, safety and good health at this joyous time of year when we think of renewal, looking beyond the Winter Solstice as the earth turns, the days grow longer and all is well in the land.
Feliz Fiestas from Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca. Poinsettias. Mexico’s gift to the world.
We are dormant now. Slower. More thoughtful, perhaps. In ancient cultures our attention might turn to the spring planting. May our seeds of new life bring forth all the richness of life that we each deserve.
Christmas in Mexico Photo Gallery: Mexico Travel Photography
Barbara and David Garcia’s magnificent Christmas Tree, Chula Vista, California
For all my Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Muslim, Parsi, Buddhist, Bahai, agnostic, atheist friends around the world, and those whose religions I do not know, it is my fervent hope that 2017 becomes the year of reconciliation, cross-cultural acceptance and understanding. We have the opportunity to act locally to make change and bring us together.
Whew, I’m finally home in Oaxaca!
Honoring the altar/manger, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca Christmas
After a long night of delayed flights due to weather in Tijuana, a bumpy ride, followed by a five-hour nap, and a late night of traditional Christmas Eve celebration with my beloved Chavez Santiago family in Teotitlan eating stuffed turkey laden with plenty of tryptophan, I am awake to a new day. Almost normal.
The last posada, Christmas Eve, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca
I’m drinking a great cup of strong Oaxaca coffee. The sun is up and it’s going to be a glorious day.
Celebrating Mohammed’s birthday with Salim Wazir and family, Bhuj, Gujarat, India
This year, Christmas and Hanukkah converge once more. Feliz Navidad. Chag Sameach. Two weeks ago, in Bhuj, Gujarat, India, I celebrated Eid and Mohammed’s Birthday with Salim Wazir and his family. We sat on the floor around a feast covered tablecloth and ate together. My Muslim friends wore white, a symbol of purity.
Boundary line, border crossing, USA and Mexico. #No wall!
My son Jacob and I crossed over the bridge linking the USA to the Tijuana, Mexico, airport. I met a 16-year old returning to Oaxaca who hasn’t seen his mother and sisters in four years.
I said to him, I bet you have a story to tell.
Yes, he nodded.
I could only imagine.
May love and an open heart prevail as we move into 2017.
I saw a mix of people carrying USA, Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua passports going home for Christmas to visit family. I am reminded how connection is so important in our lives. How the Berlin wall fell. That walls cannot break us.
Sparklers light the way for La Ultima Posada, the last posada, on Christmas Eve
In Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, this morning I awakened to cojetes — firecrackers — and the sound of music. Christmas music. Tunes we are familiar with — Silent Night, White Christmas, Joy to the World and Feliz Navidad — sung in Spanish, blared out over a loud-speaker from somewhere in the village. Tunes whose origins are German, American, Latin, religious and secular, some composed by a Jewish immigrant Irving Berlin.
Bedecked for the holidays on the Zocalo, Oaxaca, Mexico
In the past thirteen years since I first started coming here regularly, it seems that USA popular culture has infiltrated our local villages more and more. Blinking holiday lights, reindeer on rooftops and x-Box games on big screen TVs are more prevalent than ever.
Oaxaca’s radish festival. Even Porfirio Diaz got kicked out.
Change happens. It is neither good or evil. It is to be discussed, explored, researched and understood. Whatever the next Man in D.C. tries to do, I defy him to build a wall that separates families. He is not my president.
Another babe in arms. Zocalo, Oaxaca, Mexico
This is what dads do in Mexico. They kiss and hold their babies. They don’t want to be separated.
Posted in Cultural Commentary, Oaxaca Mexico art and culture, Photography, Teotitlan del Valle, Travel & Tourism
Tagged #nowall, #teotitlandelvalle, Christmas, immigration, Mexico, Oaxaca, politics, popular culture, posada, procession, Teotitlan del Valle, the wall